Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Mines and Hearts

A Movie Review

In the tradition of Norma Rae and A Civil Action comes the 2005 film North Country. 'Inspired' by the true story of a Minnesota women's landmark sexual harassment suit against her employer, North Country is a work of fiction in the Law & Order 'ripped from the headlines' tradition. It is a little disappointing that the movie didn't try and tell us the true story of the events in 1980's northern Minnesota from which its plot is loosely taken, but non-the-less what is presented here does work as a film (maybe the real story wouldn't have worked as much and that's why the writers had to spice-it-up beyond the realms of creative license). While a good picture it doesn't do anything that hasn't been done before in other movies of this type, both story and production wise.

The strongest thing about the picture, and what ultimately makes it work as a movie is the performances, which are only so-so at the beginning but stellar by the end. In fact there are so many strong performances in North Country that the usually stand-out Sissy Spacek just seemed to fade into the background. Of course both Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand got acting nominations for their roles here, nods they deserved despite the fact that neither was ever given much of a chance to win in the recently concluded Academy Awards. Six Feet Unders Richard Jenkins gives a very complicated and convincing portrayal as Josey's (Charlize Theron) father and fellow miner Hank Aimes. Ken Bean comes off quite sympathetic as the husband of Glory (Frances McDormand), Josey's best friend at the mine. But to me the most surprising performance came from Woody Harrelson, who as Josey's lawyer (and former high school hockey star) Bill White, is such a normal and well adjusted character that your just amazed that this actor of all people is playing him. North Country is a solid but not altogether great movie, a fine example of the 3 1/2 star film.


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